Trends in the NFL are very cyclical and largely rooted in recency bias.
For example, drafting toolsy but flawed quarterbacks like Josh Allen, Justin Fields, Justin Herbert, and Daniel Jones seems to have paid off for both the Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Chargers, and the New York Giants. All of these young quarterbacks have taken steps forward from their level of performance at the college level.
The biggest beneficiaries of those recent successes in the 2023 NFL Draft class are Will Levis (Kentucky) and Anthony Richardson (Florida). Teams look at how far Josh Allen has come from his days as an unpolished prospect. Surrounding him with playmakers like Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, and Dawson Knox allowed him to progress and eventually reach an elite level of quarterbacking.
Levis is a one-year wonder for the most part, finding success during the 2021 season with former Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Liam Coen, but much was asked of him during his final season at Kentucky with a less-than-stellar supporting cast. Richardson also seems to be flying up draft boards as a dual threat passer and rusher.
This Will Levis juke AND hurdle @CBSSports just updated their latest mock draft, and they have @will_levis going #1 overall— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) January 20, 2023
Any team that drafts either Levis or Richardson will hope for better pro production than those players saw collegiately, but there has also been an unprecedented amount of toolsy quarterbacks that have found success of late.
But while toolsy quarterbacks stand to benefit from the recent trends around the NFL, the struggles of vertically-challenged signal callers during the 2022 season could prove detrimental to the current consensus first overall selection, Bryce Young of Alabama.
Russell Wilson likely had the worst performance of his career in his first season with the Denver Broncos. The veteran signal caller had a difficult time completing passes over the middle of the field, and the Broncos offense failed to design fixed to problems that weren’t much of a concern during his time with the Seattle Seahawks. Wilson played in 15 games and threw just 16 touchdowns to his 11 interceptions.
The Arizona Cardinals came into the 2022 season having improved each year under head coach Kliff Kingsbury, but the wheels finally fell off of the bandwagon. Kyler Murray struggled to make hay when DeAndre Hopkins was suspended for the first six games of the season, and by that time it was almost too late for the Cardinals to put together a meaningful campaign. Murray tore his ACL in mid-December and his availability for the start of next season is up in the air.
Meanwhile Baker Mayfield was traded to the Carolina Panthers from the Cleveland Browns this offseason, but the former number one overall pick lasted just seven games as a starter. Mayfield was statistically the worst quarterback in the NFL during his time with the Panthers, though he was released and claimed by the Rams where he found some early comeback magic.
This Baker Mayfield to Van Jefferson TD is epic #Ramspic.twitter.com/lcc6YhF1yz— TheColdWire.com (@thecoldwire) December 9, 2022
Height by QB:
Russell Wilson: 5-11
Kyler Murray: 5-10
Baker Mayfield: 6-1
Bryce Young: 6-0
All-in-all the struggles of Wilson, Murray, and Mayfield make the NFL projection of Young more difficult. If three quarterbacks that have found success earlier in their career all collectively struggled, have defenses found a way to adjust and present a new set of challenges?
It’s a troubling question for general managers at the top of the draft, as you can potentially see the ceiling for a player before he even steps out onto the field. Height is truly the only significant flaw Young faces as a prospect - is it enough to derail his draft stock in 2023?